Headlined by a dominant pitching performance from Mississippi State, the LSU offense ran ice cold in its first conference outing in two years, falling to the Bulldogs in game one 6-1.
Very quickly it became evident this would be a battle of the aces in typical SEC fashion and which one didn't blink first would have the upper hand. LSU starter Jaden Hill and Mississippi State starter Christian MacLeod exchanged blows in the first four innings as neither surrendered much to the opposing offense.
The LSU (15-4) offense looked out of whack all night as the Tigers recorded just one hit, a Cade Beloso bunt, through five innings. MacLeod ran into a little two out trouble in the first by loading the bases but was able to get out of the jam with a key strikeout, one of 12 total against LSU batters for the evening.
What was really giving LSU trouble was seeing the offspeed pitches of MacLeod, who is a four pitch pony on a good day, which Friday evening absolutely was. While his velocity was nothing the LSU hitters haven't faced all season, his location and consistency with his offspeed pitches is why he was able to keep LSU's red hot offense off its game.
Hill himself ran into jams of his own in the third and fourth innings but a double play helped the Tigers' ace keep the game scoreless through four innings. The real trouble for Hill came early in the fifth as a double and a home run to lead the inning put the Bulldogs up 2-0.
After retiring the first seven batters of the game, it became a bit of a mixed bag for the LSU starter as he allowed 12 of the next 25 batters to reach base. In a game that was dominated by the wind and strong pitching, it was a little shocking to see a ball leave the park. Furthermore a 2-0 deficit in a game so dependant on great pitching just felt like a bigger lead than it actually was.
The Tigers were able to create a little offense in the sixth off some miscommunication from the Bulldogs defense and a double from Gavin Dugas, one of just four hits for LSU for the game. In total, LSU was able to plate just six baserunners for the entire game with the 12 strikeouts, an amount that's not conducive to a winning performance.
"We had a chance early but their kid made some good pitches and we weren't able to get a knock," Mainieri said. "I think you tip your cap to their pitcher. He just really pitched well against us, kept us off balance and mixed his pitches. I thought it was a well played game but they just mustered up some more offense.
"It's just one game, that's the mindset you gotta have and it's just gotta be a complete reset," Dugas added.
An insurance run in the seventh followed by allowing three straight hits in a two run game to start the eighth ended Hill's night at 105 pitches, allowing five runs with two strikeouts. The Tigers found themselves trailing 6-1 after Mississippi State was able to get a couple of hits off of reliever Ma'Khail Hilliard, leaving the offense in an even more precarious position.
"I thought Jaden pitched really well," coach Paul Mainieri said. "I thought he was throwing the ball really well. He still had some good stuff but once he got over 100 pitches that's when you think about taking him out. I thought Ma'Khail came in and made some pretty good pitches."
LSU will be back in action on Saturday evening with Landon Marceaux on the mound. Marceaux has opened the 2021 season with 23 straight scoreless innings to go along with 32 strikeouts.
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.